Archive for Wednesday, March 1, 2000

Favors at-large board

March 1, 2000

Dear Editor:

Life is full of changes and so is the education of our most precious resources, our children. Those changes should all be focused on what is best for them, and them alone. Change should be a positive element in all our lives, as are the challenges that each of us face on a daily basis. Despite this, some people are resistant to change. This is usually due to one of two reasons: (1) not knowing or understanding the reason and necessity for the changes and what are the anticipated beneficial results of those changes; or (2) the status quo has grown roots into the bedrock of complacency.

This does not mean change for change sake. In almost everything we do in our work and personal lives, we can improve the processes of what we do and how we do it. It all begins with initiative.

It is such initiative by Patti (Michalowski) and Betty (Bullock) that I applaud for their attempt to improve USD 348 and bring it into compliance with Kansas statutes, by changing to an election of seven at large representatives to the school board. Their initiative is based on a true sense of caring and compassion for the children in USD 348 and doing what is right.

Under Kansas statutes a school district must be "equal in population as nearly as is practicable." In those instances where a school board is found in violation and taken to court, the Kansas State School Board advised that a "plus or minus 5 percent population differential is the test generally utilized by the courts in reviewing member district for the purpose of electing board members."

I live in the Marion Springs district and have three children still in USD 348 school system. Current census figures show that Baldwin City proper accounts for 47 percent of the district population; Marion Springs has 28 percent and Vinland 25 percent. Voting records show Marion Springs district residences have the highest percentage of voters who actually vote.

The net result of all this finds USD 348 is in violation of "the equal population" requirements of Kansas law. Our board is aware of this, but has neglected and thus failed to rectify the problem.

This leaves us within USD 348 with three foreseeable options. (1) We vote to change to an election of seven at large representatives to the school board. It is the most equitable, most cost efficient and the easiest to do. It also makes us compliant with the law. (2) We can waste labor hours and our precious tax dollars to realign the current district boundaries. However, this option has allegedly already been evaluated by the board and found to be too costly and time consuming in determining the actual population figures by location, for a new realigned set of three voting districts within USD 348. This option also takes away the vested interests of the status quo, in that the new realigned Vinland and Marion Springs districts would end up encompassing Baldwin City proper itself, in order to achieve the legally required "plus or minus 5 percent population differential." (3) We, the voters of USD 348, can allow the board to continue it's violation of "the equal population" requirements of the law, which in time will result in the board being taken to court for their willful violation of the law. I don't know about the rest of the voters in USD 348, but I pay my taxes to USD 348 for the education of our children and not for the large legal costs that no doubt will be spent defending our school board for their failure to rectify this illegal problem.

The needs of USD 348 are too great to be wasted on paying the legal bills for a negligent board. Our teachers are under paid for the sacrifices and selfless services they give in the interests of our children. To keep our good teachers we must pay them a decent wage. All our schools (all three grade schools, junior and senior high school) are headed to over crowded conditions as our district wide population grows at an ever increasing rate. Precious tax dollars are going to be needed for the repair and expansion of all our current school buildings, and eventually one or more new school buildings may have to be built. Those tax dollars should not be wasted paying for the legal defense costs of our negligent board.

If we the voters do not look to our children's educational future, then our children have only us to blame as they eventually will be the one's to bear the burden for our lack of leadership, foresight and vision to their future educational needs.

There should not be any parochial interests that would be threatened by the choice of the seven at large election method. Based on voter participation I believe the seven at large election system will not result in any major changes in regional representation on the board, and will encourage voter participation in elections. I wholeheartedly agree that this comes down to an issue of quality representation, which has nothing to do with where someone physically resides. It is time we look to our children's future educational needs and forsake the parochial interests of the status quo.

Unfortunately, I had to work and thus missed the orchestrated Valentine Day "Love-In" of the school board. From what I have read in the newspapers and heard from those in attendance, it was one of the largest attended meetings ever. That in itself is a good start in getting everyone interested in what and how our school board envisions the future educational needs of our children.

On a rather whimsical and comical note (based on what I've read and heard), I am left with the vision of the Valentine Day's meeting, beginning with the board entering the coliseum, cloaked in their regal crushed velvet robs and freshly powdered white wigs, as the convened masses chant the mantra "God Save Our Parochial School Board Above All Others!" I must admit the couple of board meetings I have attended were not so embellished nor so lively. I do know that it is time for the parents and voters of USD 348 to get involved and stay involved, regardless of your views on this particular issue. Our children's educational future depends on it!

Michael Kohn
Marion Springs District
Baldwin City, Kansas

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